Current waterfowl populations provide liberal hunting seasons, but waterfowl hunter numbers have declined since the mid-1990s. We hypothesized that trends in waterfowl hunter numbers, as indicated by Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Conservation Stamp (duck stamp) sales, have become independent of breeding duck populations, and we assess the impacts on habitat conservation. The relationship between duck breeding populations and duck stamp sales changed between 1955–1994 (r = 0.81) and 1995–2008 (r = 0.29). Based on the 1955–1994 relationship between total duck breeding population and duck stamp sales, about 600,000 fewer duck stamps than expected were sold annually during 1995–2008. This equates to a loss of US$126 million in gross revenue and from 42,500 to 80,900 fewer hectares of wetland and upland hectares protected. The current relationship between duck breeding population and duck stamp sales suggests future estimates of waterfowl hunters will decrease below 1 million when the breeding population declines below 32 million. Assuming current trends, expected losses of duck stamp revenues may result in an additional 2,800–13,900 unprotected ha/year if the duck breeding population declines to historical lows. Development and implementation of programs and policies that maintain or increase participation in waterfowl hunting will assist in habitat conservation efforts and continue waterfowl hunting traditions. © 2013 The Wildlife Society.
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